Christian (Orthodox): Epiphany – Following an Inner Star

According to an old Russian folktale*, it is not Santa Claus, but Baboushka who brings toys for good children; She comes not on December 24th but on January 6, Christmas Eve in the Russian Orthodox tradition.

Following the Bright and prophetic star towards Bethlehem, the wisemen from the East travel through the village where Baboushka (Grandmother) lives. Baboushka is so busy with her housework that she doesn’t notice the bright star. She doesn’t go out to see the spectacular entourage of the wisemen. Nevertheless, she provides hospitality when they come to her home to rest during the day before continuing their journey with the star to lead at night. The wisemen invite Baboushka to come with them to worship the Christ child. But Baboushka has many reasons why she cannot go with them: she has work to do, she doesn’t have a gift worthy of the Christ child, she is not prepared to let go of the toys that had once belonged to her child. I see myself in Baboushka; I identify with her reasoning.

When Baboushka’s chores are done she decides to follow the wisemen and to see the Christ Child for herself. This baby would need a few toys just like every other baby! She has toys she can give to Him. She sets out after the wisemen but she is never able to catch up with them. Along the way she leaves toys for good children, just in case one of them is the Christ child. It is said that Baboushka is still looking for the Christ-child.

This story always makes me a little sad. It touches my restless spirit and reminds me of the times when I have felt like an outsider, late to the game, not with it. It reminds me that I have something unfinished and I am never perfectly satisfied and content.

But I also derive hope from the story: my restlessness is part of the human condition. When I stop striving to “be happy” I can enjoy the human journey. Joy – and the Christ child – are found along the way in everyone we encounter.

Gratitude Prompt: When have I found joy in an unplanned/unexpected change to my routine?


There is some doubt about how “Russian” is the Baboushka folk tale. Nevertheless, it serves as a myth that points to deeper truths about human nature.

The Orthodox Church is the second largest branch of the Christian Church in the world with 220 million followers. Connected to one another by a common prayer (liturgy) and theology, each Church has autonomous leadership. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church has a patriarch (like a pope), who is an equal to the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox (in Egypt). Orthodox is the predominant religion in much of Eastern Europe. Branches are also found in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Orient. 

Coincidentally the western Church also celebrates the wisemen’s visitation on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas – also called Epiphany.
Mystics recognize the natural restlessness of the human condition. Although we are likely never to find complete peace in this life, we can practice stillness in meditation. I value this prayer for stillness offered by spiritual author and teacher Father Ron Rolheiser: